Myanmar elects Htin Kyaw as new president

587 desk, Mar 15: Htin Kyaw, a close confidant of Myanmar’s Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, was chosen on Tuesday as the new president, the latest step towards democracy after decades of military rule.

Htin Kyaw, 69, was elected president by parliament as the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party takes power on April 1.

Because Suu Kyi was married to a foreign national, she was constitutionally unable to become president, though she has stated she will be in charge of the government.

Until last week, Htin Kyaw was hardly a household name and most people in Myanmar would not have seen him becoming president of the country’s first democratically elected government in more than a half-century.

Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay said there was speculation that Suu Kyi may become Myanmar’s prime minister – a position that doesn’t currently exist – which would likely cause friction with the powerful military.Myanmar new president

“As prime minister she would be able to travel the world and meet with world leaders, basically fulfil the role of being the president without actually having that title,” said Hay.

Suu Kyi led the NLD to a landslide victory in the November 8 general elections after decades of often brutal rule by Myanmar’s generals.

Htin Kyaw gave up a career in the foreign ministry to help Aung San Suu Kyi, his childhood friend, with her political party.

When Myanmar was under military rule, Htin Kyaw ended up in the junta’s prison along with other pro-democracy activists.

Htin Kyaw is the son of a poet and the son-in-law of a founding member of the country’s pro-democracy movement.

Suu Kyi nominated him “obviously to show that he is the most trusted person for her”, said Zaw Min, 48, a former NLD member.

“If this kind of person leads the country … it will also affect positively on the people of this country,” he said.

Htin Kyaw’s secured 360 votes from among 652 ballots cast in the bicameral parliament, winning a strong majority. The vote count was read aloud and announced by a parliament official.

The military’s nominee, Myint Swe, won 213 votes and will become the first vice president. Htin Kyaw’s NLD running mate, Henry Van Tio, won 79 votes and will take the post of second vice president.

Myanmar’s military – with 25 percent of seats in parliament – had questioned Suu Kyi’s picks for president and vice president.

Myint Swe is seen as a close ally of former junta leader Than Shwe, and remains on a US State Department blacklist that bars American companies from doing business with several tycoons and senior military figures connected with the former junta.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies